Category: Television

'Soul Train's' Don Cornelius remembered by friends, colleagues, fans

Don Cornelius of 'Soul Train' is remembered by friends and colleagues
Many in the entertainment world were shocked Wednesday at the news that “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius had died this week in Los Angeles at age 75. The following are statements issued by numerous friends, colleagues and fans of the man and his widely influential show.

• “Don Cornelius! It’s so shocking and stunning. God bless him. He created a solid and broad foundation for young people and adults alike to socialize, dance and have good clean fun. He united the young adult community single-handedly and globally. With the inception of ‘Soul Train,’ a young, progressive brother set the pace and worldwide standard for young aspiring African American men and entrepreneurs in TV — out of Chicago. He transcended cultural barriers among young adults. They became one. Everybody loved ‘Soul Train’ and appreciated Don!”

-- Aretha Franklin

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

• "It's a heartbreak to the music world, to the television world and it is a heartbreak to me personally.  That's why we have to always reach out to friends and put our best love forward. God bless his family and God bless his soul."

-- Stevie Wonder

• “Don Cornelius was a pioneer, an innovator, and a trailblazer. He was the first African-American to create, produce, host and more importantly OWN his own television show. ‘Soul Train’ was a nationally syndicated show that paved the way for singers, musicians and dancers, giving them the ultimate platform to showcase their talents when no one else would. Every Saturday morning I looked forward to watching ‘Soul Train,’ as did millions of other people. ‘Soul Train’ taught the world how to dance! Don’s contribution to us all is immeasurable. He will truly be missed. I thank him for trusting me with his ‘Soul Train’ brand and I will carry on his legacy through it. My condolences to his son and my good friend Tony Cornelius and the entire Cornelius family.”

-- Earvin “Magic” Johnson, chairman, Soul Train Holdings

• "I am shocked and deeply saddened at the sudden passing of my friend, colleague and business partner Don Cornelius. Don was a visionary pioneer and a giant in our business. Before MTV there was ‘Soul Train,’ that will be the great legacy of Don Cornelius. His contributions to television, music and our culture as a whole will never be matched. My heart goes out to Don's family and loved ones."

-- Quincy Jones

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Don Cornelius remembered: Kenneth Gamble touts 'Soul Train' pride

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff worked closely with Don Cornelius and 'Soul Train'

Kenneth Gamble, along with partners Leon Huff and Thom Bell, was responsible for discovering and nurturing numerous R&B and soul performers during the heyday of their Philadelphia International Records label in the 1970s and '80s. Gamble and Huff also became one of the premier songwriting and production teams in popular music, putting their stamp on dozens of hits, including songs by Brian Holland-Lamont Dozier-Eddie Holland and Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Here, he remembers "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius, who died Wednesday.

“I’m sad to hear of his passing. He was such a wonderful person and an American icon.

“Don Cornelius’ ‘Soul Train’ made a great contribution to American culture. It came directly from the African American community. It was more than TV dance show; it was a source of pride and dignity for African American community. There were hardly any venues at that time, especially on TV, that would give African American artists any exposure, including ‘[American] Bandstand.’

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

“‘Bandstand’ was a dance show, but it basically concentrated on Caucasian people. They had a few black artists on from time to time. ‘Soul Train’ was something that the African American community first embraced -- and it’s always good to see African American people on TV -- but then it spread to become a national and an international phenomenon.

“I first met Don Cornelius in the late '60s or early '70s. We got a long real well. He was just getting started at the same time we were just getting started. We both agreed that hopefully we’d be able to make records some day.

"We had some local acts -- the Intruders, the Delfonics -- that we working with here in Philly. He said ‘Come do my show.’ It was in Chicago then and it was a regional show. So we used to send what little acts we had at the time to Chicago and they were able to get that regional exposure.

"But when he moved to California and 'Soul Train' became a national sensation, we could send an artist like Billy Paul or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and you got instant national exposure, which became something that helped increase record sales, increased the crowds at their performances and everything.

“‘Soul Train’ not only became a community -- something that gave the African American community a lot of pride -- but it became a strong economic engine for the total music industry. It got so popular that artists like Elton John and David Bowie and the Bee Gees wanted to be on ‘Soul Train.’ By that time it had gone far beyond the color barrier this country has embraced for so long.

“During the time when ‘Soul Train’ was going to California and was starting to get real big, our relationship with Don Cornelius continued. I used to talk to him two or three times a week. At one point I said, ‘Don you need a theme song.’ He said, ‘Well you, know, I got a theme song I use. I said, 'No, you need your own theme song and I want to do one for you. Johnny Carson’s got a theme song, Bob Hope has a theme song, Every great person has a theme song. You know what I mean.

“So we invited him to come here to Philly, and he came on a Friday night. Huff, Thom Bell and myself were messing around with some concepts and we went into the studio that Saturday, but we weren’t really satisfied with what we came up with. Don would say, ‘I’m going back home,’ but I said, ‘You’ve got to stay one more day. You can go back on Sunday. He went back to his hotel and Huff and I came back to our office.

“We got onto the piano and tried to break our brains because we’ve gotta come up with something great for this guy. Then we got the part that goes ‘Soul train, soul train,’ and everything fell into place once we got that hook. We borrowed something from ‘Love Train’ -- the line about ‘people all over the world’ -- because the show was trying to communicate with people all over the world. That thing just fell into place. Don was so happy, but when he heard it, it still wasn’t finished; we only had the rhythm section. We put the Three Degrees in there; they were hot with ‘When Will I See You Again,’ along with the MFSB orchestra and got it finished.

“We said, ‘Let’s call it “The Soul Train Theme.’ But Don didn’t want to. He said 'I’m protective of my ‘Soul Train’ brand.' You can call it anything else you want. We called it ‘TSOP’ and in parentheses ‘The Sound of Philadelphia.’  It became a No. 1 record all over the world. In the Philippines it was No. 1.

“Even today when you hear it, you think of ‘Soul Train.’ Don told me [later], ‘That was the dumbest move I ever made. It should have been called 'Soul Train theme.’

"Those were great times. Without Don Cornelius, people like the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the Three Degrees, Billy Paul -- all the artists we had -- the Delfonics, all these great artists would never have gotten national exposure.

"There were not other opportunities for black artists. A lot of that happened because you don’t get the sponsors for black art in America. America trying to run away from black thought. That’s a detriment to America. People don’t realize the value they have in the African American community and the contributions that have been made and that are still being made.

“He was taking artists nobody ever heard of -- that’s the most important part. It’s great to get the big-name artists, but who’s going to take great new artists like the Intruders, put them on your show and then they become a million seller? He played a big part in developing new talent.

“Also, look at all the dancers that were on that show and how creative they were. They made their own costumes, put together their own skits and many went on to be movie stars, television stars, choreographers, everything you can think of.

“It was a moment in time. A moment that comes around every now and then, when someone has a vision. Don Cornelius had a vision and the talent to put together an idea that was timely and able to capture the imagination of the whole world.

“He was a great man, a humble man, and a very giving man. I pray for him. When I think of him, I think of fun times. Those were fun times in America.”


Photos: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

Don Cornelius, creator of 'Soul Train,' dies at 75

Video: 6 'Soul Train' performances from Don Cornelius' heyday

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Kenneth Gamble, seated center wearing blue suit, shakes hands with Joe Jackson after signing on the Jackson 5 in 1976. Leon Huff is seated behind Gamble. Credit: Philadelphia International Records

Don Cornelius remembered: Patrice Rushen looks back on 'Soul Train'

Patrice Rushen looks back on
Veteran keyboardist, singer and songwriter Patrice Rushen, now serving as artist in residence at USC’s Thornton School of Music, was still a student at Locke High School in South Los Angeles in the early 1970s when she first came into contact with Don Cornelius and “Soul Train.” She landed more than a dozen hits on the R&B charts in the 1970s and '80s including “Feels So Real” and “Forget Me Nots” and subsequently became an in-demand studio and touring musician.
Here she remembers Cornelius, who died Wednesday.

“When he decided to move ‘Soul Train’ out here [to Los Angeles from Chicago], I was in high school. In the summertime you’d go to the park and hang out with friends. They had a lot of organized activities for us. One day I remember Don came to the park and talked about his show, ‘Soul Train,’ and he said, ‘Anybody who wants to go, we’ll have buses and take you to the TV studio. All you’ve got to do is come on the show and dance.’ I was in some of the early ‘Soul Train’ episodes as one of the dancers.

“Years later, after my career started forming AND I had some commercial success with some of my tunes, I was on the show as a guest, and it was like I’d come full circle.

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

“Seeing people like Al Green, the Temptations, James Brown and others on the show -- that’s my association: the chicken dinner and a Coke [provided by Cornelius] and enjoying having the experience of being on a TV show. Then being in a situation where ‘Soul Train’ had a big part in breaking my career as far as having exposure on television in a really meaningful way to an audience that turned out to be my core audience.

“He remembered me -- he said ‘Didn’t you use to dance on this show?’ It was very moving for me. You saw the power of television and then I really noticed for the first time in my life an African American who had the kind of vision he had.

“If you were on ‘Soul Train,’ it could make the difference between a few thousand people hearing you on the radio to millions seeing you at one time. It became a trend-setter. Having that as a platform for so many artists, myself included, gave us access to millions of people at a time, and elevated you to a certain status.

“Dick Clark is a very deep individual and personally likes a lot of different things, but his show [‘American Bandstand’] focused on a particular aspect of popular music and most black artists had to achieve a certain crossover pop success to be on that show.

“Whereas with ‘Soul Train,’ the platform was also open to people who were on the way up. He didn’t mind sometimes introducing new artists, or giving a major bump to an artist he believed in who was at that middle place; somebody who was making some significant noise but needed a real boost.

“At first, when I was just one of the kids riding the bus over to watch a television show happen, being an observing participant with a bunch of kids from South-Central L.A., that was the big thing. 

“Then, just seeing somebody as I became more knowledgeable about the music industry and savvy, watching someone with vision and making that vision happen. Now there are still so many obstacles to getting a show on the air -- his believing in it and making it work speaks for itself.”


Photos: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

Don Cornelius, creator of 'Soul Train,' dies at 75

Video: 6 'Soul Train' performances from Don Cornelius' heyday

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Patrice Rushen. Credit: Tim Alexander

Will Smith, Simon Cowell team for DJ competition show

Will Smith
With Skrillex up for best new artist at the Grammys, Calvin Harris heating up the charts with Rihanna and AVICII, Swedish House Mafia, Kaskade, Afrojack and David Guetta landing plum Coachella slots, there’s little doubt that DJ culture has gone mainstream.

So, perhaps it's little surprise that a reality competition show would be on the horizon. Will Smith and "American Idol"/"X-Factor" vet Simon Cowell have joined forces to seek out the next hottest DJ –- or at least the one most likely to win a talent show. 

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Sean 'Diddy' Combs to launch music-themed cable network?


Sean “Diddy” Combs has had his hands in music, film, reality TV, fragrances, clothing, restaurants, liquor and headphones. Now, the multi-hyphenate rapper-entrepreneur is looking to further expand his brand (and his wallet) by launching a music-themed cable network, according to a report in Broadcasting & Cable.

Combs is hoping to roll out the music-themed network, Revolt, on December 12, 2012.

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'X Factor' finalists Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, 'Astro' sign to Epic


"The X Factor" semi-finalists Chris Rene, Brian "Astro" Bradley and Marcus Canty have all inked deals with Epic Records, the label announced Wednesday.

Their signings shouldn't come as a surprise, considering they were handpicked and mentored on the reality competition by label head Antonio "L.A." Reid.

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Personal Playlist: Alexandra Patsavas

Head of Chop Shop Music Supervision Alexandra Patsavas talks about her favorite music these days.


As head of the L.A.-based firm Chop Shop Music Supervision, Alexandra Patsavas has placed music in television shows and films such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gossip Girl,” “Mad Men” and the “Twilight” series. Her ear for music and knack for breaking new acts via the big and small screens have translated into sales for Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, the Killers, Snow Patrol and the Fray. The longtime music supervisor spoke with Pop & Hiss about what she listens to, and what she wants you to hear.

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John Fogerty guests on, writes theme for Fox TV show 'The Finder'

John Fogerty John Fogerty
Rocker John Fogerty is not only providing an original song, “Swamp Water,” for the theme of the new Fox TV series “The Finder,” but the former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman is also making a guest appearance on the series’ debut Thursday night.

The series is from “Bones” creator Hart Hanson, who also is a longtime Fogerty fan. In the episode, Fogerty appears as himself, making his acting debut. His guitar is stolen and returned to him by the show’s protagonist (played by Geoff Stults), an Iraq war veteran who uses his uncanny ability to find things in his new career as a detective.

Fogerty also plays a raw version of one of Creedence’s signature hits, “Fortunate Son,” which Hanson describes as “one of my favorite songs of all time,” adding, “My production company would have been called ‘Fortunate Son Productions,’ but somebody beat me to it.

“When he sang and played on ‘The Finder’ set, we all stood in awed silence and grinned at each other,” Hanson said.

The show will air Thursdays at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time. Following Thursday’s episode, the stripped-down version of “Fortunate Son” will be available as a free download for one week on Fogerty’s website.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of John Fogerty durring a 2004 performance at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

'X Factor' champ Melanie Amaro signs to Epic Records

Melanie Amaro, the inaugural winner of Fox’s stateside edition of “The X Factor,” has signed to Epic Records, the label announced Tuesday.

Amaro snagged the largest guaranteed prize in television history with a $5-million recording contract to Sony Music through Syco, a joint venture between Sony and show creator Simon Cowell, when she took the crown in December.

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Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer tapped for Oscars


Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Pharrell Williams and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer will join the the 84th Academy Awards as music consultants for the upcoming ceremony in February, ABC and producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer announced on Thursday.

“I am honored to work with my mentor and teacher, Hans Zimmer, and I have wanted to collaborate with Brian Grazer on something for years,” Williams said in a statement. “I cannot believe I will be joining them and their teams on the most prestigious show of the year, the Academy Awards.”

Zimmer won an Oscar in 1994 for his work on the score to “The Lion King,” and has landed nominations for composing “Inception,” “Gladiator” and “Sherlock Holmes.” While Williams is most known as one-half of the production force the Neptunes (Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Beyonce, Madonna) and frontman of the rock/hip-hop outfit N.E.R.D., he also experimented with film music as he wrote the original score to 2010’s animated “Despicable Me.”

The 84th Academy Awards, hosted by Billy Crystal, will air Feb. 26 on ABC.


Allen Stone aims to change perception of soul singers

Questlove says NBC clearing 'Fallon' songs after Bachmann flap

Pandora free concert series to debut with Dawes in Portland, Ore.

— Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Pharrell Williams on Tuesday in Westwood. Williams has been tapped to work as a music consultant on next year's Oscars. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images


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